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How can you spot bad web design and avoid it on your own site?

Your website should be your top marketing tool. But if you have bad web design, you could be losing a significant amount of traffic and revenue. Here are some of the top design errors and how to correct them.

Information Overload

By far the most common mistake people make on their websites is to treat the home page like a newspaper, where space is a valuable commodity. As a result, they tend to crowd their website with small text and zero white space. Content feels cramped, hard to digest, and even harder to read.

Give your content room to breathe—white space is your friend. Instead of trying to fit in as much text as possible, put your most important message at the front, show your users where they can find more information, and then let them digest the information that is most relevant to their needs.

Complicated Layout

This happens when the designer gets behind the wheel and allows form to dominate function. We understand the temptation: an artistic design can be beautiful, exciting, and far more fun to create than something that just… works. But for most users, a complicated layout leads to confusion and poor usability.

In this instance, the thing that makes the design “bad” isn’t its visual aesthetics, but rather its usability. Good design is user-focused and accessible. Make your site usable, then worry about making it pretty.

Poor Legibility

Your text is tiny. The font is either very thin, or overly ornate. Or there isn’t enough contrast between it and the background. Everything bleeds together and is hard to read. Legibility has to do with the amount of concentration it takes for your readers to read the text on your website. If your site has poor legibility, then your visitors will become fatigued while trying to read it. Visitors with poor eyesight, colorblindness, or reading disabilities could be excluded entirely.

Make sure your text is legible: good contrast between the font color and the background, and a large, clean font. If you find yourself straining to read the text, others will, too.

Hidden or Confusing Navigation

Navigation tends to fall into two traps: a navigation bar which is hidden behind a hamburger menu or in a non-obvious part of the site, or one which is so overloaded with information that it takes over three navigation tiers to access.

Of this is your website, try reorganizing your navigation to make it more accessible and usable for your visitors. Never have more than two tiers, and keep navigation labels short as possible. Also try some usability testing to make sure visitors can find it, and watch to see if the path they take through the site makes sense.

Inappropriate Use of PDFs

We’ve all been there: we’re looking for information, click a link thinking we’ve finally found what we’re looking for, and it turns out to be a PDF. Certainly, not all PDFs are bad, but there are several instances where a PDF could be damaging your website.

For one, information in a PDF isn’t going to help your SEO strategy. It also doesn’t follow responsive web design principles, making it less readable for most users. Particularly for mobile visitors, a PDF can be clunky and hard to use. Save PDFs for prime downloadable content, or information your visitors may want to save and access later. But if at all possible, try to provide this information in a more accessible format, and make the PDF download optional.

Pop Ups and Other Intrusive Advertising

Do you enjoy marketing pop-ups? Giant banners that grow and fill more of your screen as you scroll down? Life chat icons that get in your way and won’t leave you alone?

Didn’t think so. If you don’t like it, why include it on your site? This is particularly true of anything that causes noise or flashes. If it’s breaking your visitor’s attention, it’s more likely to get them to turn away than stick around.

Intimidating Forms

Information is a good thing. The more you know, the better you can help your customer. But it’s easy for this quest for information to get out of hand—particularly on contact or registration forms. You may know why that information is important to you, but if it’s not important to your customer to give you that information, then you’re likely turning them away.

There may be some form fields you want to include in a content form to vet your contacts. But it’s far more likely that you already have too many fields, and instead of excluding low-quality leads you’re driving high-quality ones away. Be ruthless. It’s totally acceptable to have a one-field form that’s nothing but an email address.

Narcissistic Content

Is your content all about you? Or is it focusing on the needs and interests of your visitors? Your business is subject you naturally know a lot about. However, not everything that is important to your business is important to your customers. While you’re blithely devoting a lot of real estate to topics you think are important, your visitors are feeling neglected and dissatisfied.

To make sure you’re focusing on your visitors, start by developing customer personas. This will help keep your mind on the issues more pertinent to your visitors. Once you’re certain you’ve properly understood your visitors’ needs, make sure you satisfy them. Make sure you answer all their questions and give them a path to follow so they know what to do next.

Bad web design will impact your site performance.

If you’re wondering how much these issues will impact the performance of your site, the answer is a lot. Even the best web sites spend a lot of time testing and tweaking their design to retain and convert visitors. By leaving these design problems in place, you’re making your visitors jump through hurdles just for the honor of buying your product or services.

Pay attention to things that frustrate you as you navigate the web, and keep them off your own site. More than that, be proactive in following good web design practices. The more your focus stays on providing a good user experience, the more your users will appreciate your site.

Published 05/11/17 by Laura Lynch